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"MISSING LINK" FOUND: New Fossil Links Humans, Lemurs?

2009-5-20 23:05| 发布者: geology| 查看: 3628| 评论: 4

"MISSING LINK" FOUND: New Fossil Links Humans, Lemurs?

090519-missing-link-found_big.jpg

May 19, 2009—Meet "Ida," the small "missing link" found inGermany that's created a big media splash and will likely continue tomake waves among those who study human origins.In a new book, documentary, and promotional Web site,paleontologist Jorn Hurum, who led the team that analyzed the47-million-year-old fossil seen above, suggests Ida is a criticalmissing-link species in primate evolution (interactive guide to human evolution from National Geographic magazine).                                                                                               
(Among the team members was University of Michigan paleontologist Philip Gingerich, a member of the Committee for Research and Exploration of the National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News.)
The fossil, he says, bridges the evolutionary split between higherprimates such as monkeys, apes, and humans and their more distantrelatives such as lemurs.
"This is the first link to all humans," Hurum, of the NaturalHistory Museum in Oslo, Norway, said in a statement. Ida represents"the closest thing we can get to a direct ancestor."
Ida, properly known as Darwinius masillae, has aunique anatomy. The lemur-like skeleton features primate-likecharacteristics, including grasping hands, opposable thumbs, clawlessdigits with nails, and relatively short limbs.
"This specimen looks like a really early fossil monkey that belongs tothe group that includes us," said Brian Richmond, a biologicalanthropologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., whowas not involved in the study.
But there's a big gap in the fossil record from this timeperiod, Richmond noted. Researchers are unsure when and where theprimate group that includes monkeys, apes, and humans split from theother group of primates that includes lemurs.
"[Ida] is one of the important branching points on theevolutionary tree," Richmond said, "but it's not the only branchingpoint."
At least one aspect of Ida is unquestionably unique: herincredible preservation, unheard of in specimens from the Eocene era,when early primates underwent a period of rapid evolution. (Explore a prehistoric time line.)
"From this time period there are very few fossils, and they tend to bean isolated tooth here or maybe a tailbone there," Richmond explained."So you can't say a whole lot of what that [type of fossil] representsin terms of evolutionary history or biology."
In Ida's case, scientists were able to examine fossil evidence of furand soft tissue and even picked through the remains of her last meal:fruits, seeds, and leaves.
What's more, the newly described "missing link" was found in Germany'sMessel Pit. Ida's European origins are intriguing, Richmond said,because they could suggest—contrary to common assumptions—that thecontinent was an important area for primate evolution.
(Related: National Geographic-funded study of human "missing links.")
—Brian Handwerk                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                                                                        Photographs courtesy PLoS ONE
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引用 山野村夫 2009-6-18 10:49
斑竹应该把国内的一些新发现也放在这里啊~~
引用 benlleo 2009-5-21 14:32
右图右下角那几个字有侵犯版权之嫌!
引用 benlleo 2009-5-21 14:31
左图看着像侧卧的狐猴
引用 benlleo 2009-5-21 14:29
左图看着像侧卧的狐猴

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